News about Burgundy's 1st through 5th grade classes.
The teachers and Elizabeth, Jared, Pat, and I are back from the annual faculty retreat, which took place at the Cove Monday and Tuesday. We had a wonderful kick-off with teachers, with ice-breakers, great meals, and recreation time, along with a slate of team meetings and great professional conversations on diversity and differentiation, two of our summer reading topics! We are fortunate to have such an incredible mountain campus and academic program there! And, yes, it was hot even there! Big thanks to Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies Director Vini Schoene ’73, David Sicree, and Jennifer Smith for hosting us!
Teachers, administrators, and staff are on campus this week here in Alexandria, in coordinating meetings, setting up classrooms, and generally getting ready for the first day of school, next Wednesday! Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, is the orientation day for new parents and students.
We'll have the long weekend coming up to contemplate our hopes and dreams for the coming year and for teachers to put final touches on their classroom spaces. And then, beginning with the preliminary activities Tuesday, we will be greeting your children with open hearts, minds, and arms. We look forward to seeing you and your students! Don't forget the BPA First Day Coffee on Wednesday and the Burgundy Back to School BBQ on Friday next week!
See you soon!
This week in addition to attending the tail-end of the Medieval Festival at 4/5 I had the pleasure of reviewing some of the Medieval Simple Machine write-ups and illustrations in the Gallery of the Logan Loft. An integrated unit, Medieval Studies touches social studies, science, math, reading and writing, and even the arts! The simple machines projects draw on STEAM skills: students design a machine, then write a persuasive letter to potential benefactors (royalty) asking for patronage of their work.
This week, among portraits of other worthy machines, I encountered colorful representations of: the Rat Crusher, the Poop Waste Sanitation Machine, the Wall Destroyer, the Pulley Bridge, the Crush-o-Mortar, the Serfing Safari (cart puller), the Medicine Delivery Machine, the Medieval Windmill Override (ouch?), and the ever-practical (olde) catapult!
If, as I hope, I’ve piqued your interest, alas, my editor cautioned me that the full descriptions of the functions of some of the aforementioned contraptions might not be publishable in a weekly (typically) rated-G parent newsletter. Yet ere you seek remonstrances or worse, a pox, on me, I can entertaine ye with an excerpt frome one letter (to the nobles) from a serf in search of support for his machine, developing the skill of advocating for a good concept…
Dear your most Lovely Queens,
Your most regal and elegant highnesses….I have invented something completely wondrous….As of now when we are making buildings the mortar is uneven and it takes many men and many hours to create the mortar...my machine will make it easier...You will benefit from the Crush-o-Mortar. Your mortar will be the envy of all and your buildings will be strong….
The Medieval Festival every other year encompasses much more than pool noodle jousting and juggling… Planning and designing simple machines introduces 4th and 5th graders to real-life analytical thinking in a manner that lends itself to 21st century problem-solving skills. Being curious about 12th century engineering challenges translates into an ability to address 21st century problems, something we and the high schools who accept our graduates know that our alumni bring consistently to bear in their lives after Burgundy!
This afternoon, I’m returning from the Cove, having spent some quality time at our incredible Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies campus with the Viceroys. Rain is not the weather we hope for when we set out to the Cove, but I can tell you that seeing so many shades of green, even in the rain, is somehow grounding and delightful, and seeing our kids so engaged, with little care about the weather, is always inspiring!
Cove trips also are the surest signal that the school year is racing to completion! Hold on!
Ready or not, final everythings begin in earnest in mid-May: the musical (8th graders’ last production, aside from graduation), the 4th-5th grade Medieval festival, the 8th grade rocket launch, and various other classes’ culminating expositions, as well as, this year, the 6th-7th grade Shakespeare elective performance, and finally — much-anticipated by the classes — the final swims and class parties! The last day of school also includes a Moving Up celebration. More soon on that! It feels sudden, even to me, to refer to the last day of school, but it’s only three weeks away!
It’s the time of year when I have to remind myself that it’s less important (to some degree) to get each thing on a list done and more important to experience some of the moments and really ‘be in the moment.’ One way I’m accomplishing that is by being at the Cove, however briefly, with my child’s class. Many other years I have spent a night or two with the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure. This year I’ll try to visit many of the different classes’ final activities. I’ll also enjoy the annual reception for 8th grade parents, the final board meeting and celebration of retiring trustees, and each of the last days of school.
One of the things that keeps us educators coming back each year is that there’s a phenomenal renewing energy in life cycles and rituals, the transitions and the traditions, of a school year. There can be some anxiety and stress for everyone in the crush to wrap up everything, and in anticipating change, which everyone handles differently; but there is also the opportunity to celebrate the journey.
Every year is a different journey. Whether it’s been the most magical or harder-than-average (sometimes we learn and grow even more in those years), it’s been our year together, in each one of our classes and peer groups, and this is true for the adults as well as the students. Savor all for which we have to be grateful! Thanks for all the support for me, our staff, and for Burgundy.
This morning at a special All School Meeting in the amphitheater, second grader Anna M. announced the name caretaker Ali Shepard ’04 has chosen for Poppy’s foal, born in the barn last week. We’ll call the filly Topaz! The Burgundy community offered a lot of suggestions, and the idea of “Topaz” came from Melissa Koval, parent of 8th grader Rowan Smith. In the announcement, Anna explained “Topaz is a gemstone and she’s our little gem!” The opportunity to announce the foal’s name was an auction item this year.
Earlier at the meeting, visiting students from Deep Creek Middle School shared a musical presentation with a poem, a song, and a rap celebrating the connection and friendship between the school and Burgundy. Deep Creek is an independent school on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, also home to the Island School. Every other spring, 7th and 8th graders from Burgundy visit the Island School for a week and in turn host Deep Creek students.
Thank you to all the parents who joined us last Thursday night for Curriculum Night. The event gave attendees a chance to learn more about our drama program from grades 1-8, our science program from JK-8 and our Middle School math program. It is impressive to see how the curriculum builds from year to year and integrates with our subject areas. We learned about the 2nd and 3rd grade study, the Shakespeare play in 4th and 5th that connects with the Medieval unit in social studies, and the herbivory project in 6th grade math that combines science study at the Cove with statistical work in math class, to name just a few. We participated in a drama activity, tried to solve a tricky math problem, and reviewed student materials from each subject.
It’s hard to recreate the entire experience, but the faculty teams have shared their presentations, available via the links below, for those who were not able to attend. Please note that the links lead to PDFs and some elements of the presentations (e.g., videos) may not be available in this format.
We hope to see you at next year’s event!
This past weekend Burgundy lost one of our beloved goats, Ruby. She would have been 9 in August and lived a wonderful and full life at Burgundy. In Ruby’s passing, I have been reminded of exactly what makes Burgundy the best place for me and so special for all our students. The value of truth, as well as the belief that social and emotional intelligence belong at the heart of education, are exactly why I will be a Burgundian for life.
On Monday, I was invited to meet with the Kindergarten and First Grade classes to share the sad news about Ruby and to answer questions from the students. I’ve also met with JK and 2/3 students this week. I was prepared for thoughtful questions, like those I had seen previously when discussing the death of a Burgundy animal, but I was simply blown away by the sensitivity and understanding shown by the students and my colleagues in assisting in teaching the difficult lesson of coping with a loss.
I love that we, as educators, respect and trust our students enough to be appropriately honest with them about sad events. After explaining the story of Ruby’s natural passing, the students asked questions such as “Where did she die?” “Where and how was she buried?” and “How do the other animals feel about Ruby being gone?” I was pleased to tell them about Ruby’s happy life, relatively easy death, and the way the other animals reacted. Much like our students, the herd mates of a deceased animal have questions and need an opportunity to grieve. After Ruby died, I allowed the other animals back into the barn to see her body. They each took turns smelling her body to gather information about what happened to their friend, processed it to understand, and then went about their normal routines. Just like humans who are given the opportunity to gather information and process a loss, the animals have more peaceful reactions when allowed that time to grieve.
I was also glad to both hear and share the varied feelings about the news of Ruby’s death. I explained to the students that it is okay to feel sad that she’s gone, happy that we got to know her, a mix of emotions, or feel nothing at all. The teachers and I asked the students to share some ideas of what they can do if they feel sad, encouraging them to think of their own coping mechanisms. Talking to a friend, recalling fond memories, drawing or writing feelings, and crying all your tears out were all suggested by the students. They are so wise.
As part of the mutual respect seen so frequently between students and teachers at Burgundy, I was also thankful to be able to share some of my own emotions about Ruby’s passing. Several of the teachers also shed tears and shared feelings. It is so valuable to our students that we can be open about our challenges and hard moments to model appropriate processing and expression of feelings. In addition to leading the Kindergarten classes in a small meditation, Elizabeth Nibley explained the importance of being mindful of others’ feelings and how to offer sympathy to those in need. She reminded them that Ruby dying was particularly difficult for me, as her caretaker, and the teachers agreed that the students could practice expressing sympathy by sharing a kind word with me as they left the meeting. I was personally touched by the sweet words and hugs, but also so impressed at the students’ ability to offer compassion. Even as adults, it can be hard to find the right words to say in times of sadness and we can all benefit from practicing mindfulness and understanding how to appropriately express sympathy.
In the spirit of engaging the whole child, I am so thankful that Burgundy believes in the ability to make any moment a teachable moment, including the hard lessons that become opportunities to teach critical social skills that will be used throughout our students’ lives. Our students, and we, are better for it.
The Burgundy Parents Association is having a Family Game Night on Friday, April 20 and all Burgundy families are invited to attend! New families enrolling this fall are also invited. Join us 6-8 p.m. in the Burgundy Gym for a fun family night out, featuring a wide variety of games to play with family and friends, and plenty of food (pizza) for all. If you can attend, please register by April 18.
Box Top coordinator Meghan Semiao gathered each classroom’s collection of Box Tops earlier this month and shared the numbers. Across our Alexandria campus, we collected 905 Box Tops, with the Viceroys and Kindergarten classes contributing the most. Each one is worth 10 cents, so that means this collection netted $90.50 for Burgundy’s annual giving fund, which supports professional development, program and instruction, and financial aid. You can send Box Tops in anytime! We’ll plan for one more collection and count before the end of the year.
JK + Main Office: 1
Burgundy is featured in a recent story from MindShift, an educational reporting project from public radio station KQED. The story highlights the shift toward dog-friendly school campuses and employing both official and unofficial “comfort dogs.” For the story, a reporter spoke with Head of School Jeff Sindler, 8th grader Max S., and 1st grade Goats student Maggie H. about Jeff’s dog Cameron and their experience with dogs on campus.
This year’s Arts Festival will be in a new home—the Logan Arts & Community Center! The event was originally scheduled for March 13, but we are rescheduling it for Tuesday, April 10. The date change will allow for the installation of a layer of paneling on the walls of the gallery—necessary before we can display art there. Delivery of the panels has been delayed. With this change, the Arts Festival coincides with the celebration and dedication of the building and Campus Commons on the following morning of Wednesday, April 11.